I was writing a script for a new video, when I started thinking about the shops impact on total miner. You touched on this somewhat in your post, Nefty, so I'll just reply here.
Part of the reason why I feel that there is a sort of blandness to survival is because the shops inherently discourage the aspects of the survival gamemode that make it great. Exploring.
In survival, yes. However, you take into consideration the exploration needed to find all the blue prints in Dig Deep and it's on point. You MUST go everywhere. It handles survival status in a different way. Survival itself is as you said...bland. Simply because EVERYTHING is already there, minus the harder difficulties where they take away the shops.
Why venture into deep underground caverns or immersive landscapes when you can obtain everything in the game by mining straight down for an hour?
Again, with Dig Deep you don't have that issue. this should mostly be directed towards Survival purely.
I think this should be taken into consideration when there is a survival overhaul, further down the line. Reward players for venturing out into the world, overcoming challenges, battling creatures, and raiding generated structures, and not so much for mining the same block for hours on end and processing the materials.
I do believe the Quest update should handle this issue. But I agree, that much more immersion would be a little more satisfying for the player.